We had a good bit of sport over the astronomical prices paid this past summer for white truffles in New York restaurants. But what if their black cousins, long the déclassé branch of the family, became even more expensive? Or disappeared entirely? That wouldn’t be so funny. And it wouldn’t be good for the price of white truffles, which, like Beluga caviar and shark-fin soup, could become a purely plutocratic pleasure sooner than we expected. (Not that truffles are evil in the way of Beluga caviar and shark-fin soup; we’re just thinking of endangered luxury foods, you understand.) An article in USA Today suggests that the global warming is currently bringing the hammer down on black-truffle production and that (gasp) “France's black truffle will one day be just a memory.” It’s a similar story around the world, as fish stocks are depleted, ecosystems are knocked out of whack, and global demand for things like toro and truffles move beyond a small cluster of ascot-wearing bons vivants.
The position of chef remains overwhelmingly male, a fact we wrote about recently in the magazine, but maître d', the functional boss of the dining room, has been if anything even more so. That’s why the promotion of Maite Montenegro to head maître’ d' at Daniel this week is so notable. The maître d’ is the ultimate restaurant authority figure, the person that knows how to treat everybody and whom everybody trusts and looks to for guidance.
Daniel, arguably the grandest of the city’s top dining rooms is planning a rehab, though it won’t be until the summer. Though neither the restaurant nor its patrons are dissatisfied with the current room (and why would they be? It looks like the gateway to the afterlife, circa 1895!), the renovation will keep the place fresh. “Upper East Side ladies get their face-lifts before they’re needed,” spokeswoman Georgette Farkas tells us. “It's something we’ve been thinking about. But Daniel doesn’t want to do anything too revolutionary.” Farkas wouldn’t name names, but a source close to the restaurant says designer Adam Tihany, who did Le Cirque 3.0 and Osteria del Circo, is topping the short list of candidates. In the meantime, the Daniel empire has plenty to keep it busy: Bar Boulud is still slated for a December opening; Maison Boulud, in Bejing, will open in March; and Boulud’s downtown burger bar is, sadly, still unnamed.
Related:Exclusive: Feast Your Eyes on Bar Boulud, Coming in November
De Niro’s Tribeca Grill is the latest restaurant to be sued by ex-waiter complaining that managers skim tips. [NYP]
Kiwis consider the real key to Gordo’s New York success to be “Waikato farmboy” chef de cuisine Josh Emett. [New Zealand Herald]
New York’s little red book, the 2008 Zagat guide, is out today. It is more significant to the restaurant world than the Michelin guide, and for good reason: The same people who use it are the ones who write it. So what if it’s a popularity contest? Life is a popularity contest. There were some minor shakeups in this year’s rankings, such as Union Square Cafe retaking its sibling Gramercy as most popular restaurant, and Daniel retaking the top spot in cuisine from Le Bernardin. But the more interesting points required a slightly closer look.
Chef demonstrations tend to be pretty grim affairs, and the so-called “tastings” that come with it even worse. (Usually, it’s a sample of whatever horrible product the chef is currently hawking in groceries.) Tomorrow’s demo by Daniel Boulud at the Time Warner Center's Williams Sonoma, though, will be a rare chance to actually eat the chef’s actual food. The chef is promoting The Cafe Boulud Cookbook, but there's a bonus Bar Boulud tasting, too.
I am attempting to find establishments that have a table in their kitchens. I have a teenager who is interested in the industry and I thought this would be fun to do together!
An Encouraging Mother
Last night’s Top Chef claimed Tre Wilcox, the affable Texas chef and audience favorite. Acting as executive chef for Restaurant April, three of his dishes bombed and the judges reluctantly singled him out as the night’s loser. He spoke with us about his new female fans and why he thinks Hung will become this season’s Top Chef.
If our recent coverage of the deliveryman revolt caused you to imagine a Utopia in which once lowly restaurant workers pour bubbly on their bikinied yacht passengers while singing “I’m a go-getter,” think again: A feature in today’s Village Voice indicates that all is not well within the Restaurant Opportunity Center of New York (ROC-NY), the group that protests alleged labor-law-flaunting restaurants like Daniel, Smith & Wollensky, and the Fireman Hospitality Group’s eateries. The nonprofit is being sued by former members who allege that they were cheated out of a fair share of the ROC’s pioneering co-op restaurant, Colors. And that’s just the start of the beef.
Fork Off [VV]
Related:Deliveryman Revolt Continues With No Check in Sight [Grub Street]
The Delivery Man’s Uprising [NYM]
Meatopia, the Woodstock of edible animals, has captured the imagination of Grub Street readers. Suggestions for next year’s theme have flooded in, nearly overwhelming both the Grub Street in-box and our wildest expectations. Send your idea to email@example.com by 6 p.m., and we might see you tomorrow. Among the contenders:
Daniel Boulud gives in and settles his discrimination suit, agreeing to pay off the plaintiffs, give his busboys and runners a raise, make his managers take sensitivity training, and set up standards and procedures for promotion. [NYT]
Related: Daniel Under Attack! (Again)
A court hearing later today will rule whether Gordon Ramsay faked scenes during his infamous “rescue” of Dillons restaurant. [Fox News]
Blue Hill’s Dan Barber loves Lupa, Noodletown, and the “secret gem” greenmarket on West 97th Street. [Gothamist]
“Bottled or tap?” is an annoying enough question (we love our local H2O, critics be damned), but come August, when Evian’s “luxury bottle” graces restaurants like Daniel, Le Bernardin, and L’Atelier, the question will be “tap, bottled, or really pretentiously bottled?” As elaborated in a training video (that’s right — Daniel Vrod, server of presidents, will soon learn how to pour water), the swanky Palace bottle is presented as if it were a bottle of champers and delivered to your glass using custom coasters and a ceremonial pourer. Question is, will there be a sexy delivery device for the suggested $5 to $8 that will flow out of your wallet for this?
The Golden Scoop Pastry awards held last night had everything you would want from a dessert awards: a victory parade of New York chefs, a dozen world-class desserts, and a seven-foot pastry chef–slash–drag queen named Chocolatina. The ceremony was held at the French Culinary Institute and awarded prizes in five categories, the most important of which, Best Dessert Menu, was won by Dominque Ansel of Daniel. The most intense competition, though, may well have been Most Innovative Dessert, a coveted trophy in today’s go-go world of rock-star experimental dessert chefs.
Ex-Marine Josh Adam Garcia, one of the standout contestants on The Next Food Network Star, is accused of lying about both his military service and graduating from cooking school. [Marine Corps Times]
Scott Conant has Miami and New York projects on the horizon. And his go-to restaurants in New York are Daniel, Café Boulud, Daisy May’s, Blue Smoke, and Tsushima. [RG]
Some food-world heavy hitters recollect their greatest meat moments, as a follow-up to yesterday’s Times story about the fatty times we live in. [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
Daniel Boulud’s search for a downtown space has come to an end, we hear, as the chef’s latest effort is set to land on Houston Street near the Bowery, directly opposite from Whole Foods. Daniel spokeswoman Georgette Farkas cautions us that the lease hasn’t been signed yet, but the man himself tells us that they’ve settled on the location. “We were going to do it near CBGB’s, but it didn’t work out,” he says by way of explaining the holdup. The as-yet unnamed spot will be more casual than its uptown brethren, but it will be a full-fledged restaurant, he tells us — not a wine bar or sandwich shop. Whatever its format, we expect it to be a big hit for Boulud. All the millionaires that have taken over the East Village are going to need someplace to spend their money.